Odeya Nini – Vougheauxyice (Voice), CD published by pfMENTUM CD083, San Diego, CA, April 2014
The fruit of a successful Kickstarter campaign, this CD by Californian-based avantgarde composer/singer Odeya Nini (b.1982) introduces her warm voice and exploration of onomatopoeia, pre-language syllables and the kind of sounds the mouth emits before the voice. Odeya’s vocal artistry includes techniques as diverse as whistling, breathing, overtone singing, accumulation, loops, and so on. Her voice can sound radical at times but never short of a certain kindness and an enveloping, all-encompassing tone.
The first 4 tracks are characterized by an intimate, close miking recording that emphasizes the unveiling of a certain privacy yet retain a sacred dimension throughout. In the opener, a lullaby called Mi See Ti, the singer reiterates the syllables of the title with a variety of accentuations, from hushed to mezzo voice, as if adding a different meaning with each iteration. The 2nd track (Dalai) is based on pre-verbal sounds, breathing, whistling and various sotto voce utterances. The following, Everyday Cantor, a simple song performed… under the shower, confronts the singer’s sense of humor with the universal symbol of water and cleansing. In tracks #1, 3 and 5, one can hear echoes of musical cantillation melodies performed while reading the Torah, where special signs near stressed syllables, known as Trop in Yiddish and Ta’amim in Hebrew, indicate pitch and accentuation (see Cantor Arianne Brown for a primary lesson). Cantillation is one of the inspirations for Odeya’s art, others being yoga breathing technique, Central Asian throat singing, travels around the world, sounds of nature and interaction with immediate sound environment.
Starting with track #5, extraneous noises and extended technique are introduced. In fact, the entire CD follows a parallel movement from: i) simple, unaltered solo voice recordings to more complex combinations of sound sources, and ii) from the inside to the outside – indeed, in many ways, this Vougheauxyice is also a… Vougheauayage. Sorry for the pun, but this title do make one feel like playing with words and also reminds the beginning of one of these portemanteau, 100-letter words of Biblical proportions found in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. This would not be the only allusion to Joyce here as the booklet also mentions a “stream of consciousness improvisation with words” about track #7. But the main trend of the 2nd half of the record is definitely sound treatment and extended vocal techniques using – or based on– reverberant space (#6), outdoor field recordings (#6), live recording and loop pedal (#7), vocal accumulation, harmonics and interference beats (#8). The most striking is definitely #6 Tapestry of Synonyms, a collage of outdoor recordings including wind, animals, voices recorded around the world, as well as everyday noises – in itself a perfectly formed Musique Concrète étude a la Pierre Schaeffer. The following track (#7) exceptionally uses recognizable words delivered in a semi-conscious state and formed of multiple puns and invented words, with the loop pedal effects deliciously adding to the confusion. The closing track returns to wordless vocals with long-held notes superimposed via loop pedal to create harmonics and beats.
The very conception of Vougheauxyice (Voice) allows a progressive immersion into Odeya Nini’s sound world, which various aspects then unfold from track to track: a warm tone, archetypal sonorities, experiments with sound treatment and extended technique, inspiration from outside of the avantgarde, hints of sound therapy, etc. Most of all, this is a singer who cares for her listeners and ensures that each song is a pleasure to listen to. Less acrobatics, more depth, to make it short.
[review by continuo]